Bridging the great divide...
Photo: V.V. Krishnan.
A date with history at Lodi Garden in New Delhi.
THERE IS a place in the heartland of New Delhi, which is the lungs and heart of many of its citizens. It is frequented not just by the high and mighty but also by the large middle class and even the unobtrusive lower strata of our society. The place is Lodi Garden and people who enjoy sauntering on its vast stretch of land, include not just the politicians and businessmen with gold-rimmed glasses but also the common folks.
Lodi Garden unifies Delhiites irrespective of caste, creed or religion in the same manner as when people root for Indian men in flannels taking on arch rivals Pakistan. People driving swanky Mercedes Benz and those staying in congested, labyrinthine alleys of Lajpat Nagar and Jangpura walk side by side in such a manner as if they are walking hand in hand for solidarity. This is the place where class distinctions and economic status get blurred. Those staying in Lutyens' bungalows mingle, chatter and exchange views on a host of subjects plaguing the nation with those struggling to earn two square meals a day. They develop a sort of bond, camaraderie as walking partners. There are also those stiff-upper lipped bureaucrats, writers and academics, who after pouring into literature at India International Centre - perambulate even while engaged in animated conversations.
Says Avneesh, who brisk walks daily, "About 20 years ago, Lodi Garden used to swarm with those living in Golf Links, Defence Colony and Lodi Estate. Now even a sweeper can walk with his head held high."
A majority do come in to breathe in a draught of fresh, salubrious air. Trim, flabby and muscular figures share a common pursuit - relentless running, which makes this place a jogger's paradise. Some languorously sprawl themselves on its green meadows. There are senior citizens, who attend pravachans - listening with rapt attention to religious discourses - which take them to another plane. Then there are oldies participating in less rumbustious get-togethers.
On Sundays couples bring along with them their off-springs and show them the monuments built by the Lodi dynasty. Littered with graves of unknown soldiers, sovereigns these monuments are a haven for those seeking tranquillity. Dr. Ali Rezak, an Iranian with the Asian African Legal Organisation, says that Persian court language has been inscribed on the interiors of these wonderfully built monuments. "The Moghul reign, starting from emperor Babar down to Bahadur Shah Zafar patronised Persian language and architecture. Artisans and craftsmen were brought from Herat in Afghanistan. That time it used to be a part of Iran. These monuments bear resemblance with Lotofo Allah monument of Iran. Persian influence is all-pervading here."
Lodi Garden could have been a paradise for lovers of nature but indiscriminate, heartless felling of trees has robbed the place of its pristine beauty. With nature, in this case old, restless trees, being trampled, rare birds like Coppersmith, Golden Orioles, Red Wattled-Lapwing and White Breasted Kingfisher have disappeared. "In the `80s 100 species of birds were found. Now, hardly 20 species remain," grudges Ajay. Unlike him, there are incorrigible bird-watchers, who derive voyeuristic pleasure from watching awkwardly sprawled couples. Couples spending blissful moments against the backdrop of magnificent monuments make you feel that they are some mysterious souls, who belong to that forgotten era, when these pieces of architecture were being crafted, assembled and made into monuments. Though an overwhelming brisk walkers pass by without prying eyes on them, people with the conventional, old-world values do get offended. "Our sense and sensibility get affected," says Ravinder.
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